Senate budget adviser sees DHS funding increase
Senior staffer says it's the "only budget in town that is going to continue to see growth."
The Homeland Security Department may be the only federal agency whose funding will be increased by Congress this year, the Senate's senior budget adviser said Thursday.
Homeland security issues will dominate this session of Congress, with funding increases expected for areas such as border security, Gulf Coast recovery operations and technology to defend against weapons of mass destruction, said G. William Hoagland, senior budget adviser for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., during a forum organized by Equity International and consulting firm McKenna Long & Aldridge.
Hoagland said the DHS fiscal 2007 budget--which President Bush will submit to Congress on Feb. 6--could be boosted as much as 5 percent over this year's levels. "It is about the only budget in town that is going to continue to see growth [going] into the next year," he said.
Growing pressure to stem spending in some homeland security areas, however, will likely mean less money for grants to state and local governments, he added.
"The issues of grants to police, firefighters and other first responders I think will be the area where there will be restrictions, or at least limitations, on the rates of growth that we've experienced the last few years," he said.
Hoagland noted that Congress is working under a compressed schedule in order to adjourn in early October, so members can return to their districts for the November elections.
"The first appropriation bill -- and it may be one of the very few that we get done within this time frame -- will be the Department of Homeland Security," he said. "It is front and center, followed by Defense. I just want to highlight that, as we go into this politically charged year."
Hoagland predicted that Congress and the administration will increase funding for border security by as much as 10 percent and funding for science and technology to defend against weapons of mass destruction by as much as 35 percent.
He added that Congress likely will approve another supplemental funding request of up to $30 billion to support ongoing Gulf Coast recovery. And, he said, Congress is expected to consider legislation that would fund cargo security, rail security, chemical security and BioShield II, which offers liability protections to makers of vaccines and countermeasures to combat potential bioterror agents.
The "politicization of homeland security" accelerated in 2005, Hoagland said. He attributed this to the war in Iraq, the government's response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, recent revelations that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without warrants and a simmering debate over renewing the USA Patriot Act.
"One can characterize 2005 as the year that homeland security policy issues, broadly speaking, and related administrative issues became highly charged, more divisive, challenging and, I would also say, politically controversial," he said.
"It was a year of tremendous pressure obviously placed upon [DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff] and the new directorates at the department," Hoagland added. "It was a year when managing rapidly changing events pushed officials to their limits, both mentally as well as physically."